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Killing The Fives It's the only way to survive on the PGA Tour

June 01, 1998
June 01, 1998

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June 1, 1998

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Killing The Fives It's the only way to survive on the PGA Tour

Every day on the PGA Tour you'll see dozens of ways to play the
shorter holes, but only the Daly style works on par-5s: Kill
'em. Today's pros can surmount other woes--think of Tiger
Woods's occasional nuked wedge shot or Fred Couples's tendency
to go splash--but they find it virtually impossible to do well
without getting deep into the red on par-5s.

This is an article from the June 1, 1998 issue

Players who murder the long holes have little to fear from those
who don't. Through the Byron Nelson Classic, this year's 18
tournament champions averaged eight strokes under on par-5s in
the weeks they won, making 10 eagles, 130 birdies, 119 pars and
only eight bogeys. What's more, David Duval, Couples and Woods,
the season's top three money winners, are also the leaders in
scoring on par-5s. Woods averages a Tour-best 1.92 under par per
round on the fives, Duval 1.85 and Couples 1.80.

As the chart below shows, pros were already pummeling par-5s
when the Tour began keeping track in 1983. In recent years,
however, the trend has become an all-out assault. Whether the
cause is titanium drivers or iron-pumping in the gym, the
average driving distance has risen 12.5 yards to 269.3 since
1980, allowing even run-of-the-mill players to reach holes of
more than 500 yards in two. The result: Through the Nelson, all
165 men in the Tour's statistical rankings were under par on the
fives, from the vivid crimson of John Huston (above) at minus 80
to the pale red of Guy Boros at minus 6. "On most courses we
play, there are at least two par-5s where you can't be happy to
walk off with a five," says Kevin Sutherland, who is minus 56 on
par-5s this year.

Each year, the U.S. Open shows what golf would be like in a
world where par is a good score on a par-5. With its fierce
rough and anorexic fairways, the Open demands accuracy, not
assassination. Last year, for instance, Ernie Els won his second
Open though he was only two under on the par-5s. By way of
comparison, no Tour winner this year has been worse than three
under on the holes formerly known as three-shotters.

Pros who don't go low on the fives risk going the way of
persimmon drivers. Ask Nick Faldo and Corey Pavin, whose
declines can be traced to their play on par-5s. Faldo is 22
under on fives this year, 147th on the Tour. Pavin, who was 14th
on the fives when he led the money list in '91, has tumbled to
154th this year at minus 17. Numbers like those won't get you
any high fives.

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK [John Huston golfing]COLOR CHART ANNUAL TOUR LEADER VS. PAR [Chart not available--line graph comparing annual tour leader's score on Par 3, Par 4 and Par 5 holes]

SHORT STORY

How vital are par-3 holes to success? Not very, if you go by the
best players on Tour. Here are the top 10 on the money list
through the Nelson, with their cumulative score on par-3 holes
and their rank on par-3s through May 20.

AGAINST PAR TOUR RANK

1. David Duval +1 24
2. Fred Couples +22 152
3. Tiger Woods +6 55
4. Justin Leonard +9 76
5. Mark O'Meara +3 33
6. John Huston +9 76
7. Phil Mickelson +17 126
8. Glen Day +9 76
9. Mark Calcavecchia +2 28
10. John Cook +11 93

ONE DAY ONLY

As Notah Begay III learned, not even a 59 ensures a win. Here's
how the players who shot the lowest rounds of the past five
years finished up.

PLAYER, EVENT SCORE FINISH

NIKE TOUR

Notah Begay, '98 Dominion 59 6th
Clark Dennis, '97 St. Louis 60 3rd

PGA TOUR

Steve Lowery, '97 Buick 60 3rd
Grant Waite, '96 Phoenix 60 14th
Davis Love III, '94 Hawaii 60 2nd

SENIOR TOUR

Isao Aoki, '97 Emerald Coast 60 1st

THE NUMBER

24

Years between Tom Watson's first Tour victory, at the 1974
Western Open, and his latest, at last week's Colonial.